We posted our ‘Losers’ separately. Here are the Winners:
1. Colorado Media
Perhaps it was because Colorado had such national prominence as a top swing state, but whatever the reason, Colorado media outlets did an excellent job in their campaign coverage. What was different? The change was subtle but important: follow-up questions.
Too many reporters, particularly TV reporters, get so attached to their list of questions that they don’t ask important follow-up questions. There was a great example of this in Missouri, in the infamous interview in which Rep. Todd Akin made his “legitimate rape” comments. Those two words re-elected Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, and they certainly damaged Republican candidates across the country who were asked their opinion of the statement. But what is often forgotten is that the reporter (who later apologized) didn’t ask a follow-up question. Really. Akin made one of the most important political statements of the year, and when he was done, his interviewer moved on to another question.
By contrast, reporters in Colorado dogged Republican Rep. Mike Coffman after a tape emerged of him saying that President Obama was “not an American,” with one TV reporter catching him on the sidewalk; Coffman never answered the reporter directly, but his ducking and dodging on-camera said more than enough. The media may not always get the story right, but by asking a few extra questions instead of just tossing softballs, they can help voters understand more about the candidates.
Republicans rode the “smaller government, lower taxes” mantra to moderate success in the past decade, but in 2012 voters finally decided to do the math themselves. Whether it was questioning Mitt Romney’s implausible budget & tax cut math, or whether they just started seeing more needs locally, voters in Colorado made it clear that they want their government to actually work. School bond measures that failed in 2008 were easily approved in Jefferson County, Denver, and Cherry Creek, among others. Republicans attacked Democrat Andy Kerr for being the face of an anti-TABOR lawsuit, but Kerr still defeated Ken Summers for a Jefferson County Senate seat.
Generic negative ads about the cost of “Obamacare” or the auto bailout weren’t effective anywhere, and poll after poll showed that voters favored broad ideas like environmental protection even after hearing arguments that it could slow economic growth. Nobody wants to pay more in taxes, but voters are no longer willing to risk our basic infrastructure (roads, bridges, schools, etc.) just to save a couple of bucks.
3. Cory Gardner
The freshman Republican was never in danger of losing his seat to Democrat Brandon Shaffer. After redistricting was finalized and left CD-4 with a strong Republican lean, Gardner just had to run out the clock. In fact, redistricting made Gardner’s seat safe for the next decade, giving him the opportunity to take the mantle as the GOP’s leader in Colorado.
4. Scott Tipton
On paper, redistricting results seemed to suggest that CD-3 was much more competitive than it turned out to be in 2012. Tipton defeated a strong challenger in Democrat Sal Pace, and he did so by a hefty margin. As a result, Democrats won’t likely bother spending time or resources trying to take CD-3 in 2014 and beyond. Rep. Tipton is probably safe here for as long as he wants the seat.
5. Morgan Carroll
Carroll was re-elected to the state senate without much trouble, and she oversaw Democratic efforts to maintain control of the Senate. She also graciously ceded the CD-6 nomination to Joe Miklosi when she could have run herself. Carroll will again be one of the Democrats’ most vocal leaders in the legislature, and there are several higher offices (CD-6, Attorney General) for which she would be at the top of the list in 2014.
6. Latino and Young Voters
Candidates and campaigns have said for years that the Latino and Youth vote could be important, but it was never clear whether enough of these registered voters were actually casting a ballot. That changed this year, with exit polls and other data showing that both groups voted in large numbers. The true test will come in 2014 – if candidates spend significant resources on messages specifically for these voting blocs, there will no longer be any doubt.
7. Mark Udall & John Hickenlooper
There aren’t a lot of Republican rising stars that could pose a serious threat for Democrats in elections for U.S. Senate and Governor, respectively, in 2014. One of the GOP’s most likely candidates, Mike Coffman, performed so poorly in 2012 that he may have trouble even getting re-elected; even if he does challenge Udall, Coffman will be a significantly weaker candidate after so many self-imposed errors this year.
We also list Hickenlooper as a “Loser” in our rankings, but for different reasons. From a re-election perspective, Hick can also be pleased with 2012 results. Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler was thought to be the most likely challenger for Governor (in part because there aren’t many Republicans who think Hick is beatable). Gessler’s already poor reputation took further damage with so many media stories about his bumbling attempts to purge “illegal voters” that didn’t exist in the first place, and now he faces criminal charges for repeatedly cleaning out the SOS petty cash drawer.
8. County Clerks
Colorado’s County Clerks, both Republicans and Democrats, generally ran a smooth election that produced early results and relatively few issues of concern. They stood up to Gessler at various points throughout the year, and then proved their mettle once ballots dropped.
9. The Tea Party
Make no mistake: the Tea Party is killing the Republican Party. But 2012 showed that Republicans are still terrified at the thought that they could earn the wrath of the Tea Party, which would mean a primary challenger. There has been a lot of talk from pundits about how Republicans have a lot of “soul-searching” to do in the wake of 2012 losses, but there isn’t a clear answer for how they can both satisfy the Tea Party and run candidates who can win in a General Election. There’s no question that ultra-conservative Republicans lost Senate seats in Indiana and Missouri that should have been easy victories. There’s no question that Republicans can’t keep running so far to the right in a General Election. But it’s still the GOP that needs to convince the Tea Party to change — not the other way around.
10. FOX News
A Romney victory was the worst thing that could have happened to FOX News, because they would have lost their chief villain (President Obama) with a replacement that hardcore conservatives didn’t really like all that much. Four more years of Obama is four more years of red meat to drive ratings.